Pre-election Violence in Burundi

Dereje Seyoum* and Yonas Tariku*

The recent announcement of Mr. Nkurunziza to run for the presidency for the third term was not welcomed by his opponents. Protestors clashed with the police and so far six people have died as a result of police fired live ammunition at them. News from the capital city indicates that the worst is yet to come, as the military is deployed on the streets of the capital and barricades are seen across the capital city. Former rebel leader who assumed power after winning the 2005 election which was conducted following the 2003 peace agreement with the transitional government, Mr. Nkurunziza, notoriously warned that anyone who bothers the incumbent party would find himself/herself in trouble. What is witnessed after his statement is a wave of protest across Bujumbura and in Gitega, the second largest city. Burundi’s former president Mr. Buyoya warned that if the situation is not resolved at its early stage the country would slide back to civil war.

The decision to run for  the third term in office by the president is a clear violation of  the country’s constitution as it clearly stipulates in article 96 that ‘’The President of the Republic is elected by universal direct suffrage for a mandate of five years renewable one time.’’ However, the president’s supporters argue that, his first term in office should not be counted as he was appointed by the parliament. The contention is not whether Mr. Pierre Nkurunziza was elected by the National Assembly. In fact he was elected by the Assembly as a post-transition period president in 2005. Nevertheless, he was not the president of the transitional government that ruled Burundi until 2005. Had that been the case, Article 301 of the Constitution would have precluded him from running for presidency in 2005 as a post-transition period president. That is, Article 301 clearly states that “Any person having exercised the functions of President of the Republic during the period of transition is ineligible in the first presidential elections.”  Therefore, he is the first president of the post-transition period, although he was elected by the National Assembly instead of universal suffrage. And, according to article 302 of the Constitution, this should be construed as an exceptional event. As a matter of fact, article 302 provides that:  “Exceptionally, the first President of the Republic of the post-transition period is elected by the [elected] National Assembly and the elected Senate meeting in Congress, with a majority of two-thirds of the members.”

The decision of the President is also a violation of African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance .The charter which is a binding international legal treaty, was adopted on 30 January 2007 and entered into force in February 2012. The charter particularly deals with how political power is acceded to and exercised. Among the main principles put forward by the Charter, article 5 states that “State Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure constitutional rule, particularly constitutional transfer of power”. It is important why the Charter attach so much importance and emphasis to this principle of constitutional rule. According to the Charter, unconstitutional transfers of power are “one of the essential causes of insecurity, instability and violent conflict in Africa”. Constitutional rule and, on the other, peace, security and stability in Africa are indispensable. The president’s decision to run for the third term office is a clear violation of this particular Charter’s article 23 which states that ‘’Any amendment or revision of the constitution or legal instruments, which is an infringement on the principles of democratic change of government.’’

Therefore, Mr. Nkurunziza finishes up two terms (i.e. 2005 and 2010) and it’s time to retire. From our perspective, the argument of his allies is based on mere excuses than justifications. And, it reminds us of the argument forwarded by Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal in his last election bid 2012, which he lost deservedly!

The African Union, particularly the Peace and Security Council(PSC), should use all available diplomatic channels and means at its disposal to convince the president to change his plan to run for a third term .Moreover, the PSC should also condemn the president’s decision and consider sanctions against the president which is clearly stipulated on African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. By taking decision on time, the PSC   would prevent further violence which is hovering in the country. The decision and the measures from the PSC also would serve as a lesson to other African states, particularly those which will be holding elections this year. The message should be loud and clear, in a sense that AU does not tolerate pre and post-election violence related with unconstitutional stay in power by the incumbents.

* Dereje Seyoum ( is a Research Officer at the Africa Peace and Security Programme (APSP), a joint programme of the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) and the African Union.

* Yonas Tariku ( is a Lecturer and PhD programme coordinator at the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS).

All views expressed in the AfSol blog are solely the views of the authors and do not in any represent the views of the IPSS or APSP. For more information on AfSol Blog, please contact

African-centered Solution for Xenophobia in Africa: Reviving the concept of Ubuntu

*Ikubaje Esther

‘‘In the old days when we were young, a traveller through our country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food. People gave him food and attended to him once he stops. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question is, are you going to do so in order to enable the community… to improve? These are the most important things in life …’’

These words from the personification of Ubuntu, late President Nelson Mandela, in a video where he was asked to define the concept of ‘Ubuntu’, underpins the essence of this write-up. The recent wave of xenophobic violence in South Africa triggered by allegations of South Africans losing jobs and economic opportunities to other Africans and hate speeches against immigrants has once again underlined the need to reawaken the Ubuntu Spirit among Africans. It is amazing that this concept that was so much valued by noble sons and daughters of Africa such as late President Nelson Mandela, President Thabo Mbeki, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu has gone dead in the wake of the onslaught of incidences whereby immigrants have become victims of xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

SABC. South Africa needs to acknowledge Xenophobia as a critical issue: SAHR. Monday 23 June 2014 11:28. retrieved from:
SABC. South Africa needs to acknowledge Xenophobia as a critical issue: SAHR. Monday 23 June 2014 11:28. retrieved from:

During the days of Apartheid in South Africa, the slogan ‘motho ke motho ka batho ba bangwe/umuntu ngumuntungabantu’ which, literally translated, means a person can only be a person through others generated a huge solidarity among all Africans. The concept which perfectly illustrates the ideals of African shared values. It is the universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity and is particularly significant when considered along the lines of its primary values of intense humanness, collective brotherhood (personhood), collective morality caring, respect for human dignity, a sense of hospitality and the integration of strangers. This concept, deployed during the days of the Apartheid struggle prompted Africans around the globe to mobilize support towards ending decades of Apartheid in South Africa. It will be recalled that countries such as Nigeria, Botswana, Lesotho, Zambia, Senegal, Ghana and several others threw their full weight behind South Africa during the Apartheid struggle in the spirit of Ubuntu. This history of brotherhood and solidarity is ironically being fast forgotten as evidenced by the events of these past weeks.

The moral concept of Ubuntu demands for peace and the promotion of human life and dignity. First, this demand is that South Africans should choose to live together in peace with foreigners in the traditional spirit of brotherhood. In other words, this means a return to the communitarian spirit.

Second, South Africans should exhibit tolerance and hospitality towards foreigners living amongst them. Concretely, this means that they must give room for equality and collective space within which everyone is able to contribute his or her quota to the development of South Africa and Africa at large. They must know that killing, maiming or torture of innocent people for any reason at all is not justified and definitely not in accordance with Ubuntu.

Third, foreigners in South Africa equally need to selflessly contribute to the society in a collaborative manner void of unhealthy rivalry. Practically traditional models of conflict resolution, aligned to Ubuntu, should be explored in the current crisis. Such models should aim at the reestablishment of relationships between South Africans and foreigners. There must be a holistic approach to this process, in which the foreign community should be involved, to assist on the road to peace. As the lead stakeholder, South African leaders across various sectors have a responsibility in this regard. It is to guide conflict resolution processes towards an agreement, which should reflect, as much as possible, the consensus of all the parties involved in the conflict.

There is an overarching potential that this traditional African concept of Ubuntu can influence common solidarity, peace and security in the current crisis. South Africans need to demonstrate to the world once again that they believe in this. Ubuntu should not be history in South Africa, it should be expressed as a worthy measure to end xenophobia.

*Ikubaje Esther( is a Programme Officer at the Africa Peace and Security Programme (APSP), a joint programme of the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) and the African Union. All views expressed in the AfSol blog are solely the views of the author and do not in any represent the views of IPSS or APSP. For more information on AfSol Blog, please contact

African Solutions to an International Problem

Mercy Fekadu Mulugeta*
Eleven African Heads of State and Government as well as other prominent Africans are gathering for the 4th Tana Forum to discuss Secularism and Politicised Faith, on 17-18 April 2015 in Ethiopia. Tana Forum, an African platform on security, gathers African leaders and experts under the symbolic “baobab tree.” The baobab “invites participants to sit down in a spirit of commonality and moral duty towards finding solutions in peace and security for the continent.” The question is: can there be an African solution for a problem that is as international and as pervasive as violent politicized faith?

Most violent politicized faith groups in Africa have international connection with Al Qaeda and ISIL. Many scholars have highlighted on how groups such as Al Shabaab and Boko Haram increase visibility and benefit financially from their collaboration with internationally recognized and financially stronger groups. The Forum needs to identify an angle where Africans can tackle the challenge of violent politicized faith.

One issue surrounding the growth of violent politicized faith groups in Africa is their genuinely; whether religion is just a means where they express local grievances as opposed to their commitment to global ‘jihad’. Alliances, in the context of such terrorist groups or even states, are always strategic. Somehow, strategies tell us about the group’s true interest, be it economic, political, social or religious. For Al Jazeera’s Tres Thomas, the reason Al Shabaab might join ISIL is economic. He mentions how the group would be able to draw fighters from other east African countries besides ethnic Somalis. But others also argue that there are “ideological fissures” to it referring to the call to pledge allegiance to ISIL by Sheikh Hassaan Hussein, a radical religious teacher in Nairobi.

Speaking on strategic alliances, we have to understand that those African groups are pledging allegiance to Middle Eastern groups while they themselves are breaking into factions. Like AL-Muhajiroun and AL-Hijra in East Africa, and several factions in the Northern and Western part of the continent should be questioned. According to Rasmi News, Al Shabaab itself is said to be a divided group, even on the issue of which group (Al Qaeda or IS) to be affiliated with. They break because they think they have their own national agenda while others believe they should be a part of global ‘jihad’. On the other hand, Boko Haram’s choice of ally, IS, has resulted a break off between members of Ansaru, an earlier faction of Boko Haram, because a part of the group wanted to rejoin Boko Haram.

These mergers and break offs make local groups’ commitment to global ‘jihad’ questionable. There would not be as many factions breaking from each other if their goals were harmonized. Technically, groups claiming allegiance to another receive military training and support from the other. At the stage of fighting there is very little that Al Qaeda or ISIL can benefit from the allegiances. However, if there are victories the glory is [at least in principle] shared. However, it is difficult to say whether or not Boko Haram (constituted by a majority of young deprived men and women) will willingly share spoils if they were to control a resource rich place. The resource curse might for once become a blessing to Africa by dividing Boko Haram and hastening their defeat.
By the looks of how little Al Qaeda and IS have and might benefit with their relations to the local groups it is very unlikely that they are pursuing partnerships with African groups for economic purposes. The options that cannot be ruled out though are their commitment to global ‘jihad’ and access to a continent that is geographically difficult to penetrate without such strategic partnerships.

The opposite is true for local groups. Even if we cannot conclude that local terrorist groups have no ideological foundation, their commitment to it, at least in times of economic blessing, is uncertain. This might not apply to all their members but the majority of their members will be affected by the decisions made by those few.

This insight is instrumental for future actions undertaken by African states and institutions as well as other international actors. It demonstrates that the fight against terrorism is both an ideological and a military one. But it is should also be accompanied by provisions of political and economic opportunities especially for the young and vulnerable (and therefore restless) in Africa.

A senior researcher of ISS, Martin Ewi, has mentioned that the shift by Boko Haram from Al Qaeda to an alliance with ISIL “confirms Shekau as an opportunist, but also as an unreliable partner.” The same might be true for most African based terrorist groups as their unreliability emanates from their lack of opportunity that made them vulnerable in the first place. Providing opportunity might be the right way to fight back and exploit their opportunistic character.

*Mercy Fekadu( is a Research Officer at the Africa Peace and Security Programme (APSP), a joint programme of the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) and the African Union. All views expressed in the AfSol blog are solely the views of the authors and do not in any represent the views of IPSS or APSP. For more information on AfSol Blog, please contact

Election dilemma in Africa: Learning from the Nigerian Experience

By Dereje Seyoum*
Several African countries are holding elections in 2015. The election in Sudan is starting today, 13 April 2015, and Togo will follow next week. DRC, Egypt, and several others will take their turns in the following months. The election process and result in Nigeria has proved to be exemplary for other African countries holding elections this year. The defeat of the incumbent party in Nigeria is also a triumph over one party rule which is becoming a norm if not the rule in contemporary African party politics.
The purpose and the function of elections differ depending on the political realities of each country. Many countries conduct election for the sake of fulfilling their electoral calendar, without any significant outcome in the election result for the democratic process of the country. Elections are considered as a silver bullet for every legitimacy problem that a given country faces. Ironically, in all cases elections are conducted in a dilemma.
In a Post-conflict context, elections are considered as part of conflict-to-peace transition. In such countries it serves to terminate war (in its short term objectives) and, in the long run, to lay the foundation for the construction of a more stable and legitimate state. Consequently, elections legitimatize peace agreements and are used as a carrot to belligerent parties to lay down arms and compete for political power through peaceful and civilized means, to play by the rules of the game and participate in the politics of election. Election in such countries is also seen as the return of sovereignty and a sign for the reduction of international presence in a given country. It is an exit strategy for international and regional interventions present in a country through different forms, especially peace keeping missions (Lindberg, 2009).
In another context where governments are relatively stable but authoritarian, election is seen as having a democratization effect. However, except in few countries, the democratization effect of election is disputable as election sustains autocratic governments in power. Instead elections serve as a duplication of autocracy since elected authoritarian regimes can utilize elections for regime reproduction. The electoral track record in such countries indicate that elections have led to autocratization rather than to democratization (Gandhi, 2009).
In all contexts elections are conducted in a dilemma, involving many uncertainties and fear of post-election violence. There is fear that extremist groups might come to power and the dread of political polarization.
Against this norm in Africa, the election result and the reaction of Goodluck Jhonatan in upholding and respecting the people’s choice in the Nigerian election should remind those African countries holding election this year to use election for its democratization purpose. The Nigerian experience would probably also serve to ease the election dilemma in Africa. Good luck Buhari!!
*Dereje Seyoum ( is a Research Officer at the Africa Peace and Security Programme (APSP), a joint programme of the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) and the African Union. All views expressed in the AfSol blog are solely the views of the authors and do not in any represent the views of the IPSS or APSP. For more information on AfSol Blog, please contact

An African-centered Solution to radicalism in Africa? Introducing Tana Forum 2015

By Elshaddai Mesfin*

Militant groups under the banner of religion, advancing political aspirations are on the rise in Africa. They have shaken up the thin balance that exists between religion and secularism in Africa. Central Africa Republic has hosted reprisal attacks between the Seleka and Anti-Balaka movements claiming thousands of lives that only ceased recently. Last week, 147 students were killed during the Al-Shabab Garissa Massacre , 17 were killed in a terror attack in Tunisia’s National Museum, 2000 died in one of the deadliest attacks by the Boko Haram insurgency in Kano this past January, who in March has officially pledged its allegiance to ISIS. In fact, ISIS seems to have spread to Northern Africa as well, Libya in particular, where Sirte has been a battleground between ISIS supporters and opponents.

These facts reflect a rise of movements that advance their respective interests using politicized faith. This rise has triggered unanswered questions within the mind of the African citizen who wants to know how policy makers will understand and address this issue. From 18 to 19 April 2015, African Head of States and Governments, International Stakeholders, CSOs, members of the diplomatic community in Addis Ababa, acclaimed researchers and academicians will assemble in Bahir Dar to address the theme of politicized faith and secularism in Africa. I believe that the Forum will be an African platform where an African perspective will be debated. I hope these perspectives will shine a light on a possible solution to be owned by Africans; also reflecting African shared values on religion and secularism.

“Africa is a continent where faith holds a special place in people’s lives whether it is traditional African beliefs or organized religions. We at Tana feel it is time to take the debate to the pertinent stakeholders and seek holistic solutions.” Remarked H.E Olusegun Obassanjo during the Ambassador’s briefing of this year’s TANA HIGH LEVEL FORUM ON SECURITY theme.

Join the discussion and see what many are saying on

*Elshaddai Mesfin ( is a Research Intern at the Africa Peace and Security Programme (APSP), a joint programme of the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) and the African Union. All views expressed in the AfSol blog are solely the views of the authors and do not in any represent the views of the IPSS or APSP. For more information on AfSol Blog, please contact